Three things I learned about the President.

I would say I’ll never wash my hand again, but that would be a severe health code violation, and also, gross.

I received a text this morning from Kristin, one of my coworkers right before my shift at Parkville Coffee.

 

I seriously thought it was a joke, despite her literally telling me “this is not a joke.” Classic Kristin. But just in case it wasn’t I made my way down Main Street, where I was told “You’re not going anywhere.” The giant secret service agent eventually changed his mind after I pleaded my case that I “have a shift at 12 at that coffee shop over there.” Also, after they wanded and patted me down a few times.

Tensions were high as I walked in. Another giant secret service guy yells at me “Hold on just a minute!”; he wants to wand me down again as Kristen tells him “he works here!” A few happen-stance customers, regulars, and a couple handpicked people from the blocked off crowd were in there as we were all instructed to cram into the back of the store while the bomb-sniffing dog made his rounds. It was a real intimate moment that a barista can rarely share with the customer. I found out things such as what it looked like when everyone’s personal space was violated and what our collective body odor smelled like on a late-July Kansas City day.

 

Naturally, the orchestra of press packed themselves densely into a corner of the shop.

 

We started rehearsing what we would say, who would pour coffee, and who would ask him if he wanted room for cream. Then, about an hour of anxiety-ridden anticipatory nothingness.  It was probably more like 5 minutes, but you know how things are when the President is about to visit. Thoughts were twirling in my head, as I imagine were for my other coworkers. I noticed I was a little shaky, and remembered that I was getting a haircut at 3:15 tomorrow. Crap, why do I keep putting off shaving?  I just look more like I’m fifteen years old when I’m trying to grow a beard than when I just shave the whole damn thing. The baby-face weirdly looks older for me. 

Then, oh hey, heavily armored cars with flags on them. This just got real. After a few minutes, I look through the glass of our front door, and despite us all being told to put our phones away by men that could step on me without losing their balance, I surrender to my lack of self-control.

 

It’s the big guy. He’s taking his time, talking to everybody on his way, like human beings might do with other human beings who breathe air. He doesn’t seem animatronic. Maybe all those internet websites with brightly colored backgrounds and bold comic sans text were wrong.

After one of our regulars by the name of Big Al tries to sell him a car, he eventually makes his way to the counter to order. He shakes our hands one by one as we introduce ourselves. Now, important backstory: this isn’t the first time I’ve met a famous person.

I shared a sauna with Royals hall of famer George Brett for a previous employer’s company promo. At that same job, another Royals great by the name of Frank White dropped in for a visit. He was standing ten feet away so I bravely rose from my desk, shook his hand, and… well the plan was to tell him my name. But I replaced that air time with a long awkward pause. WHAT IS MY NAME? “…..It’s an honor to meet you, Mr White.” Sit back at your desk, Nathan, you’re homeschooled.

So back to Barack. Emelie and Amy push our new lavender cookies. Our roaster Tyler gives him a sample of our Ethiopian roast, which he now executively approves. We iterate that we can make literally anything! If the President of the Free World wants a 13 shot Austrian goat milk half-caf cappuccino with sprinkles, by God we’re ready. Oh, just a black iced tea? We have that too.  

Also, the man bought a ton of pastries – except for scones because “we’re not in England”. Touché.

Now remember that case of the shakes I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago? I have since proudly conquered said shakes. After all, I remembered my own name! “Nathan. It’s a pleasure!” There was nothing I couldn’t do! So I stop Kristen, instead of standing around useless a second longer, proclaiming “I’ll put ice in it.” So I filled that sucker to the brim. I knew it was a hot day and Mr President probably needed a refreshing cold beverage while he mulled over US policy options for Gaza while simultaneously figuring out how to make my student loans magically disappear. This very act might have saved lives. I am not unimportant – I very well could have changed the course of history, in the way that a slightly less-cold drink could never fathom. 

He asked us about our lives, again, like a non-animatronic human person. I told him I was in grad school for counseling. Seriously, what are the chances I would stroll on into work and meet the President of the United States of America and look like a competent American worker in front of him!?

“This is a really good tea. A little too much ice, though.” The drink was overflowing as he wiped his hand on his presidential pants. Kristen, who poured the tea, wasted no time: “Nathan did it! It was Nathan.” It was a nice feeling of competency while it lasted, so I just shrugged as Obama walks away, and in typical folksy form, replies, “You sound just like Congress!” And as slow and deliberately as he arrived, he was gone.

Oh, and here’s the three things I’ve learned about our 44th president:

1. He has a perfect handshake. Not too firm, solid grip, appropriately timed.
2. He’s tall.
3. He now knows me as the guy who put too much ice in his Earl Grey iced tea. 

I feel that this screenshot neatly packages the events of July 30th, 2014 in a face:

 

What a weird day.

Thoughts on the Grandest of Noses

Before I continue, let me just disclaim: I had a hard time writing this, because I didn’t want to. Yes, I’m devastated to have to live in a world without Robert Engel – known instead to me and the rest of his “grandgeese” as Grandpa Bob – and without my future kids getting a chance to know him like I have, as well as all the rest of my friends and loved ones. But what I mean is it’s a shame for me to try to sum up how he meant to me in a few short paragraphs: it was much more fun to live it, and this account of him is more than likely going to fall short. Well, this is me giving it a try anyway. So here we go. Continue reading